FARMINGTON — A plan to build a new emergency 911 dispatch center for Franklin County is ready to go before voters this summer now that county officials made some changes to lower the project’s original price tag.

Voters will be asked to approve the $598,300 project during statewide primary elections on June 12, county officials said. There will be three public hearings before the vote to give residents more details about the project.

Franklin County commissioners recently voted unanimously to send the project to county voters, after about $20,000 had been cut from an earlier version of the plan.

Commissioner Gary McGrane, who has criticized the other two Franklin County commissioners for backing the project, said his vote is a way to give county residents a chance to decide the issue.

The dispatch center, which shares space with the Franklin County sheriff’s department, has been the topic of lengthy debate over space shortages in county government offices. In 2010, voters rejected a $4.46 million plan to relocate most county offices and build a new dispatch center. That plan failed 7,783-4,398.

Although building a new dispatch center would fix the problem, McGrane said this week that there is a less expensive solution that didn’t get enough consideration by other county officials.

McGrane, of Jay, prefers a plan to renovate space in the county-owned jail building to house the dispatch center, saying it would save at least $100,000 compared to the plan going to voters.

The jail became a 72-hour holding facility when the state Legislature consolidated jails statewide, leaving the Franklin County jail building underutilized, McGrane said.

He has accused other county officials of wasting money and ignoring the will of voters by pushing for the plan to build a new dispatch center. He voted against the initial motion to pursue the new dispatch center project, which passed 2-1 in December.

Commissioner Clyde Barker on Thursday responded to McGrane’s charges, saying plans to renovate the jail have been researched and rejected by nearly every county official other than McGrane.

Barker, of Strong, said repurposing the jail could cost a lot more money over time, by eliminating the county’s ability to adapt to future growth and changes in how the state handles jails, he said.

Commissioner Fred Hardy, of New Sharon, did not return a call this week.

The plan to build a new dispatch center received unanimous support from the county budget committee as well as the building committee, which consists of county officials and several community members who represent local public safety departments.

The first public hearing on the project is April 26 at Webster Town Hall, 38 School St., Kingfield. The second hearing is May 3 at the Franklin County Courthouse, 140 Main St., Farmington. The final hearing is May 10 at Jay municipal building, 340 Main St., Jay.

All three hearings are on Thursdays and start at 7 p.m.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]


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